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August 26, 2006



It was amusing to hear her disparage a non-existent consensus. I suppose she really meant "My side of politics has for years bullied the country into silence on the issue: we've accused you of being bigots, racists, fascists, Nazis, and put you in fear of going to jail or losing your job. Well, it turns out that you were right and we were wrong. So in a multicultural gesture of apology, we are all going to commit hara-kiri." Or maybe she didn't mean that last sentence.

tom s

dearieme - I don't suppose she really meant that at all, and I don't think you do either. I do think the idea that your side of politics has been silenced for years is pretty funny though.

chris - I agree with a lot of what you say, especially the managerialism bit: the problem, in the large, is not the quality of the people that you let in - a Greek friend of mine here in Canada points out that none of his parents' generation would have been let in under today's rules, but the Greek area of Toronto is a gem.

But I do think there is more than "just a criminal problem requiring good policing." Sustaining cultural diversity without fragmenting into alienated parallel monocultures isn't easy, but it is important, and it does require politics.

Bob B

Excellent, Chris. I've been longing to know what is this "multiculturalism" that we are now suppose reject, just so we know precisely what it is that we are rejecting, who signed us up to it in the first place and when, since I think we need to know before deciding on the next course. Some important factors that I think you're missing here or glossing over:

- According to the 2001 Census: "The minority ethnic populations were concentrated in the large urban centres. Nearly half (45 per cent) of the total minority ethnic population lived in the London region, where they comprised 29 per cent of all residents."

- Also according to the 2001 Census, 24.81% of London residents were born abroad.

- "London is a major net contributor to the Exchequer: Our estimates suggest that London continues to be a substantial net contributor to UK public finances, by between £6 and £18 billion in 2003-04, despite the deterioration in public finances at a national level, with the mid-point of the range of estimates implying a net contribution of £12.1 billion."
Oxford Economic Forecasting: London's Place in the UK Economy 2005-6

- "London has the highest rates of children, working adults and pensioners living in income poverty."

- the London region has the highest ILO unempoyment rate among all UK standard regions:

- "London, which has both ethnic minorities and refugees in abundance, used to be a place where the far-right enjoyed a toe-hold. Now the capital consistently displays the lowest levels of intolerance of any region in the country." (?)
The Economist, 9 October 2003

In deciding what we mean by the "multiculturalism" that we ought to be rejecting, need we take account of these following aspects too?

"Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc has been cautioned for a breach of the peace by police for blessing himself in an Old Firm match at Ibrox in February. The Crown Office said the procurator fiscal had issued the caution as an alternative to prosecution. A spokesman explained that Boruc's actions 'included a combination of behaviour before a crowd in the charged atmosphere of an Old Firm match'. And that the Polish keeper's behaviour had 'provoked alarm and crowd trouble'."

"AN ENGLAND football fan living in Scotland blamed the country’s First Minister yesterday for stoking anti-English racism after his windows were smashed because he was displaying the St George’s flag."


tom s; it'll just be imaginary, then, the case of Ray Honeyford, called a bigot and driven out of his job, as reviewed in today's Telegraph. My objections to multiculturalism may differ from Honeyford's, since his were based on massive direct experience. Mine are based on simple logic: except in trivial senses, anyone who says he believes in it is either a fool or a liar - the thing is so rotten with internal inconsistencies. How can you accept i one country a culture that, say, wants to kill all Jews, and one that thinks that that would be a crime, or one that thinks it's OK to murder a daughter or sister who won't do your bidding, and one that demurs. It's all balls, unless you mean only that any behaviuor consistent with the laws of the land is acceptable, which is liberalism, not multicultualism.

Dave Hill

Bravo! (Me, I hardly know where to begin)

tom s.

dearieme - if non-trivial multiculturalism means accepting that advocating the killing of Jews is OK, then count me with the trivial - but that 's really forcing a false dichotomy.

And sure, there is a tension between universal values and distinct cultures - I'm not going to argue that either.

And, because I really don't want to be trapped into supporting things I hate, can I just say that as an atheist I am more offended by Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bell Rock than by Hark the Herald Angels Sing?

What I will argue is that multiculturalism means that sometimes the laws change (it's not just "come here and take what laws we have"). The law of the land used to mean that schools tought Christianity (not just as a subject, but as a doctrine), and that just doesn't work today. So it's gone and good riddance to it. They don't always change, but sometimes they do. Here in Ontario there was a debate over whether Sharia law was going to be permitted as an alternative to the courts if all parties agreed - the end result was that it was not permitted, and other religion-based mechanisms including the Jewish one was also banned.

So I'm for getting rid of separate schools (including Catholic ones, which should have gone years ago) because we need common experiences if we are to be a single society and not just parallel monocultures, but also in favour of making sure that whatever school system we adopt recognizes that people come from different backgrounds. And sure there are difficulties (kirpans in schools? kirpans on police uniforms? no head coverings in schools?) and we tackle these together without just saying "this is the way we do it here" - that's what multiculturalism is.

Well, my version of it anyway.

Bob B

How can we tell when we have achieved the definitive meaning of "multiculturalism"?

I hope we can find an answer to that real soon as it could be hugely embarrassing if we went and banned the wrong kind of "multiculturalism".

tom s.

Bob B - embarrassing indeed. Good point - it is one of those words that means different things to different people, and maybe we'd do better to get rid of it (the word, that is).

Bob B

I rather hoped we had got over the "-isms" stuff by the end of the 20th century but it is evident now that we haven't. What is worse, the government has lapsed back into churning it through the medium of Ruth Kelly - who really ought to know better.

Holy mackerel, it was plain enough decades ago that what one lot meant by "Socialism" could be hugely different to what another lot meant. The Nazis was a short tag for the: National Socialist German Workers' Party. Hitler certainly denounced "Bolshevism" but not "Socialism". Most self-proclaimed "Socialists" that I've met are (understandably) incensed at any suggestion that Hitler was a "Socialist" without appreciating that they have no proprietary copyright on use of the word. Similar arguments apply to "multiculturalism".

Ruth Kelly did a PPE degree at Oxford from which she might have learned that issues are seldom resolved by debating, after the fashion of Plato, what is the "essential" meaning of a word.

Thomas Hobbes had the illuminating insight: "for words are the counters wise men reckon with, but they are the money of fools."
Leviathan (1651), First Part, Chp. IV:


tom s: "if non-trivial multiculturalism means accepting that advocating the killing of Jews is OK, then count me with the trivial - but that's really forcing a false dichotomy" - I doubt it. It seems to me that the stuff forced on the population here has been tending towards the "killing Jews is OK" point. I have no problems with bits of lubrication to let society rub along more smoothly: rules for exams that spare Jews exams on a saturday, to take one example I've been involved in. But I'm suspicious of much of the rest, and can claim family experience: a cousin was subjected at school to indoctrination to hate Protestants. Loathsome filth - there's no good reason to accept such ordure, and I write as a non-Protestant.


There are some basic principles of logic here which escape the likes of Kelly:

(i) not all cultures and systems of law are compatible. Those that condone, for example, female genital mutilation, beating of wives, forced marriages (not the same as arranged marriages), stoning people to death for adultery, oppression of Jews, black people or homosexuals are not compatible with those that don't, such as (I hope) liberal modern Britain.

(ii) Britain is multicultural, as a simple observation - there are multiple cultures here.

(iii) The way to allow them to get along is to stress that any new culture is welcome so long as it does not indulge in practices that aren't legal here. Not just what amounts to infringements of the criminal law, as with the female assaults, but also discrimination against other races and cultures. When I was at school overseas, we would occasionally have new students who were refugees from Palestine and Israel. We would be instructed by the teachers to make them welcome, help them with the language and any other cultural issues. They in turn were told that we didn't do the whole Arab/Jew or Israeli/Palestinian thing here and they therefore had to leave it at the door. They would have to interact fully with all students including their former enemies. That's what it meant to belong to their new country and that was the bargain expected of them in return for gaining sanctuary and acceptance in it.

(iv) Why can't we do the same here and now?

Bob B

There's issue relevant to tolerance and multiculturism in the news headlines tonight:

"A polygamist sect leader who has been on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List has been arrested in Las Vegas. Warren Jeffs, 50, was pulled over by a Nevada Highway Patrol on Monday along with his brother and one of his wives. He went into hiding in May after being charged in Arizona with sexual misconduct for allegedly arranging marriages between minors and older men. . . "

On another blog, someone was advocating acceptance and recognition of polygamous marriages in Britain providing all parties were agreeable to the arrangements. I mentioned that more seemed concerned to push polygynous than polyandrous marriages.

A more general - and highly topical - issue is the manifested pressure for the adoption of sharia law by muslim communities in Britain, a proposal I regard as divisive and unworkable and therefore unacceptable.

Any comments on this by Nobel Laureate Prof Amartya Sen?

"In Britain, a confounded view of what a multiethnic society must do has led to encouraging the development of state-financed Muslim schools, Hindu schools, Sikh schools, etc., to supplement pre-existing state-supported Christian schools. Under this system, young children are placed in the domain of singular affiliations well before they have the ability to reason about different systems of identification that may compete for their attention. Earlier on, state-run denominational schools in Northern Ireland had fed the political distancing of Catholics and Protestants along one line of divisive categorization assigned at infancy. Now the same predetermination of 'discovered' identities is now being allowed and, in effect encouraged, to sow even more alienation among a different part of the British population."


Bob B

On connections between multiculturalism and terrorism, this current news item also caught my attention:

"LEGEND has it that he robbed the rich and gave to the poor. Now a new incarnation of Robin Hood has been stolen by modern-day outlaws.

"Thieves have pilfered tapes for the BBC’s £8 million series of Robin Hood, prompting the production company to offer a £40,000 reward for their safe return."

How come the BBC is filming a new, multi-million production of a series on Robin Hood to show for popular viewing on BBC1?

I was under the impression that it is now illegal to glorify terrorism.

Btw the historiography of Robin Hood seems to have advanced somewhat in recent decades:

Is it mere coincidence that both Robin Hood and Guy Fawkes came from Yorkshire, as did three of the four London bombers of 7/7 last year?

Bob B

The plot thickens:

"According to the researches of Hunter, Robin Hood lived in the reign of Edward II . . and was one of the Yorkshire followers of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster (who was at that time the lord of all this part of the West Riding), in his unfortunate insurrection against Edward II. in the year 1322.

"As already mentioned,this Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, who was at that time the representative of the younger branch of the royal family of Plantagenet, and also of the De Lacis, was defeated at Boroughbridge whereafter he was put to death at Pontefract; the whole of his estates, and those of his adherents, being confiscated by King Edward II. An accomplice, Roger de Clifford of Skipton was hung in chains in York Castle tower.

"According to Hunter's opinion Robin Hood was born in a family of some station and respectability, seated at Wakefield or in one of the villages near to it: and he, with many others, partook of the popular enthusiasm which supported the Earl of Lancaster, the great baron of these parts. When the Earl fell there was a dreadful proscription, but some of the persons who had been in arms, not only escaped the hazards of battle, but the arm of the executioner. Robin Hood was one of these, and he protected himself against the authorities of the times, partly by secreting himself in the depths of the woods of Barnsdale, or the forest of Sherwood, and partly by intimidating the public officers . .

"1324 Edward II's household expenses shown for 'Robyn Hod' and 'Robert Hood' who were described as being in the King's Service."

"Edward II, (April 25, 1284 – September 21, 1327), of Caernarvon, was King of England from 1307 until deposed in January, 1327. His tendency to ignore his nobility, in favour of low-born favourites, led to constant political unrest and eventually to his deposition. He is today perhaps best remembered for a story about his alleged murder, which was linked to his reliance on the corrupt family of Hugh le Despenser, which has been seen by some as evidence of his homosexuality."

But is this family viewing?


"Surely, today, no-one feels uncomfortable about seeing black and Asian faces (?)"

I beg to differ, my grandad and his new wife spent a long time decrying the London they see now compared to the London they grew up in. They genuinely didn't come across to me as traditionally racist, it was more nostalgia, but it was very clearly based on the amount of non-white faces. Ask people in Dagenham and Barking the same question and you'll find people a lot younger who have similar beliefs. we shouldn't pander to those beliefs of course, but it doesn't mean they don't exist.

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